Good Sex Part 3: Driver Roll Up the Partition, Please! And other Good Sex.

Song of Solomon 1:1-16

 

Sisters and Brothers, this is a manifesto, a treatise, a great opus to that glorious activity that we like to call

Knocking boots 

Slapping skins

Getting it on

Having Relations

Doing the Nasty

Scoring!

That glorious act that we call sex. 

This sermon begins, as all great sermons do, with a personal narrative. The other day, I had. 

A conversation with my friend about Beyoncé (gotcha!). My friend said that she didn’t listen to Beyoncé, especially not her latest album, because it was explicit, provocative, encouraging of promiscuity, and ultimately unchristian. Firstly, I don’t let anyone talk about Beyoncé in front of me like that. But secondly, I realized that the real problem was not what she thought of Beyoncé, the real problem was what she thought about the Christian view on sex.

“Yes,” I replied to her. “Her music is, especially of late, absolutely explicit. And since you don’t listen to her music, let me tell you about one of the most explicit songs on the album. It’s called Partition.” I began to tell her about the song in which Beyoncé is singing to her driver to raise the partition between the driver and her and her lover because she is having sex in the back of a limo. She sings about how her lover has smeared her lipstick and torn her blouse. She sings about the handprints and footprints on the glass. And on and on it goes.

The song is nasty.

It’s provocative.

It’s deeply deeply sexual.

And it’s deeply deeply Christian.

I realized that the Puritanical aversion to sexuality- based on the Puritan’s theological belief of a dualism between the soul and the body that really bordered on heresy- still has its choke-hold on American Christianity and our views on sex and intimacy. This aversion is exacerbated in the Black Church because the narrative of the black bodies of the slaves was that their bodies were hyper-sexual and over-sexed, a narrative that still lingers today. As a reaction to this narrative, the Black Church tried to completely divorce itself from all notions of sexuality, creating a stark dichotomy between holiness and sexuality- they become absolutely mutually exclusive.[1] As a result, Christians – black Christians in particular- have a tendency to believe that sex is bad.

Talking about sex is bad.

Having it is bad. 

Wanting to have it is bad.

When in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Sex is good. Like all things in the cosmos, God created sex and called it good. Moreover, there is a strong connection between the soul and the sexual self. This connection is most beautifully illustrated in the Song of Solomon. If you put the lyrics of Beyoncé’s song Partition next to the text, you would think that Beyoncé is plagiarizing because there are so many similarities and allusions. Take a look at Chapter 1:

Verse 1- Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth- for your love is more delightful than wine.

Verse 4- Take me away with you- let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his bed chambers.

Verse 13- My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. 

This sounds pretty provocative to me.

Look at verse 9- I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariot horses. Here is a quick lesson on history and horses. A mare is a female horse. The Pharaoh’s chariots were not pulled by mares, they were pulled by stallions- uncastrated male horses. Once when Pharaoh was battling the King of Quidash, the enemy put a mare in heat among the chariots and the chariot horses went crazy (brilliant tactical move on their part).[2] The text here is saying this: you make me feel wild, crazy, like how a stallion feels around a mare in heat.

That sounds pretty provocative to me.

Look how the lover responds in verse 16- How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant. Verdant means rich, lush, like a vibrant and beautiful forest. In other words, what is going on in the bedroom is vibrant and lush. 

This sounds pretty provocative to me.

Traditionally, we believe that the Song of Solomon is the wedding song of God and God’s beloved, Israel. This text is about God’s ardent, passionate longing and eternal love for Israel, for the Church, and for us. This song shows us that our response to God’s love should be passionate as well. This text is about God. But if we are too quick to over-spiritualize the text, we may miss a few things. We may miss the very fact that this deeply sexual manuscript can be used as the truest metaphor for God’s ardent love exemplifies how great sex is in the mind of God. If we are too quick to over-spiritualize this text, we may miss the great celebration of human sexuality that is plainly present before us. It states clearly that sex is beautiful. That is a theological assertion that the text is making- sex is beautiful. Therefore, the beauty and goodness of sex fits squarely into our faith and Christian understanding: 

Sex is nasty.

It’s provocative.

It makes your pulse race.

It raises your blood pressure.

It makes you sweat.

It ruins your hair.

It’s nasty.

It’s provocative.

And it’s beautiful. Sex is good.

 Friends, there is such a thing as good sex. Today we are going to allow the Bible to teach us the three defining characteristics of good sex.

1. Good sex is creative. I don’t mean here that good sex requires new and interesting ways of performance (although there are many relationship counselors who would argue that creativity in the bedroom is key to maintaining healthy relationships. We will discuss this more later), I mean good sex is creative in that good sex creates. Good sex is productive, it produces. We find this illustrated for us in Genesis chapter 1. In verse 27 God creates humankind in God’s image. In verse 28, the first, the very first thing that God says to the humans God made was “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28). In other words, “Go! Have sex!” Sex is (typically) the prerequisite for child creation. The awe, the wonder, even the miracle of sex is that two bodies can join together in the sexual act and create another body. Creating life, creative and productive sex is one of the most beautiful things you can do with your body.

My end in this sermon series is to give you practical sexual ethics that you can use in your life so here is the first one: only have sex with someone you are willing to procreate with. If you cannot see yourself raising a child with this person- If you think to yourself “this person would be a horrible mother. Or this person would be an awful father!” then keep your underwear on. Baby’s momma/ baby’s daddy drama usually stems from choosing sex partners that you would not choose as family partners. But family is the product of sex. Therefore, it is impossible to call a child a mistake or to call a pregnancy an accident, a failure of birth control or contraception. Because the child is the natural and normal consequence of sex. The mistake was not the pregnancy, the mistake was the sex itself. Good sex does not need contraception (I’m not saying that contraception is bad, I’m saying it doesn’t NEED it). Think of it like this: if you get pregnant and the first thing you think when seeing the positive sign is, “Oh no. Now what am I going to do?” or “How am I going to raise this child alone?” then you are not having good sex. Or if you receive that fateful text message that says “I’m pregnant” and your first response is “are you sure that it’s mine?” or “so uhhhh what are you going to do about that?” You are not having good sex. Good sex is productive. Only have sex with someone you would be willing to produce with. Of course, that assumes that you know your partner well enough to determine whether s/he would be a good reproductive partner. Which brings me to my next point-

 2. Good sex is selective. Do you see my shoes? Aren’t they nice? You don’t have to tell me they are nice, I know they are nice. I bought them. I didn’t spend a lot of money on them but I’m very particular about my shoes. I don’t wear just anyone’s shoe. I don’t wear just any kind of shoe. I’m particular. I’m a particular person. I have all sorts of particularities. On everything. Even toothpaste. You see my teeth? This bright smile is brought to you, not by just any toothpaste, this is Crest Extra Whitening at work here. I’m particular and you are too. How many of you are particular about the food you eat? About cereal? How many of you don’t eat “fun flakes” but you eat Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes? I don’t care how rich or poor you are, 28 years of working in a soup kitchens has taught me that no one is too poor to be particular. I don’t care if you haven’t eaten in three days, if I put a bowl of slop in front of you, you would have some questions for me. You would say “what is this? I don’t eat this!” You’re particular. If I sat down with each of you, I could find out your particularities all the way down to your shoe-strings, many of you. And it makes no sense, brothers and sisters, -it is a vast incongruency- to be particular about the kind of clothes you wear, to be particular about the kind of food you eat, to be particular about the kind of car you will drive or be seen in, to be particular even down to the thread-count in your sheets and then to invite just any ole person to lay on those satin sheets with you! It makes no sense, it is a vast incongruency, to only stay in 4 or 5 star hotels and then to invite just any person to spend the night with you in that expensive hotel room. Be particular. Be selective. Be discriminating. Not everyone deserves what you’ve got. Just because he likes you doesn’t mean he deserves your sex. Just because she is willing doesn’t mean she deserves your sex. Be selective. What you’ve got between your legs is a gift and it’s a gift not for the masses. Jesus said. “Do not throw what is sacred to the dogs, your pearls to the swine (Mat. 7:6). Be particular. Be discriminating. Be selective.

We are about to cross a threshold here. Are you ready? Good sex is not just selective. Good sex is ultimately selective. What does that mean? Good sex takes place in the confines of a marriage. In Beyoncé’s Partition, she wasn’t singing about a man she met last night in the club. She wasn’t singing about her on-again off-again boyfriend. She wasn’t singing about the guy she just talks to during cuffing season. She was singing about her husband. That is what makes the song so very Christian. In the beginning f the song she entreats the audience to call her “Hey Mrs. Carter,” she is establishing her marital status. Good sex happens in marriage.

We have a deep misunderstanding about sex because we have a deep misunderstanding about marriage. The problem is that single people have a habit of mimicking in singleness what they think marriage is. And then marriage becomes a caricature of itself. People think “Oh, we live together. We have a couple of kids. We are relatively faithful to one another. We have been together forever. We are basically married.” No. You’re. Not.

Marriage is more than living together.

Marriage is more than having children with each other.

Marriage is more than being exclusive to one another.

Marriage is a covenantal vow between two people and their God. In Genesis we see marriage defined for us (Gen. 2:15-25). God creates Adam. And though God gives Adam everything. Plentiful food. An honorable vocation as a gardener. And all the animals as companions, yet Adam was alone. So God took from Adam’s rib and fashioned Eve. Adam takes one look at her and says, “Finally bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). The text goes on to say, “This is why a person leaves their family and cleaves to their spouse (Gen. 2:24). That’s what marriage is. It is a lifetime commitment to take two hearts, two minds with different thoughts, two souls with different experiences and vowing, working, cleaving to become one. It is a vow to give all of yourself to another and to receive all of the other in return. Listen to the vows that two people say when exchanging rings in a United Methodist Wedding:

“I give you this ring

As a sign of my vow

With all the I am

And all that I have

I honor you.” [3]

Marriage is a vow to give everything to each other, all that you are and all that you have.

And when your bodies join together in sex, in the sweat, and the passion, and the heat of the moment, you make these vows again. And again. And again.

That’s good sex.

Sex that happens in a bond of commitment and trust. Sex that is

Unafraid of abandonment.

Unprotected- it doesn’t fear disease or fatal illness.

It is without pain.

It is without shame.

That’s good sex. It’s not something you can have with just anyone. Nor should you want to.

Ok, good sex happens within the confines of marriage but I’ve been brushing up on my formal logic lately so hear me carefully: Good sex happens within the confines of marriage but just because you are married doesn’t mean you are having good sex. I hear people say all the time, “we got married because we were tired of living in sin.” And then surprise, surprise, they bring their sexual sin into the union. Recall the sexual sins that we discussed last week: Sex that is violent- spouses coercing sex from each other. It’s a sin. Prostitution- using sex as a means to an end. “We can only have sex if you do what I say” or using sex as a way to manipulate or control your spouse. It’s a sin. Lust- the root of adultery and addiction that breaks up the union. It’s a sin. So I am not suggesting that sex gets simple or easy once people get married. Good sex is something that you have to work at with your spouse. Which brings me to my final point:

3. Good sex is verdant. It’s lively, it’s lush and plentiful. I hear married people say all the time “Oh, we don’t really have sex anymore.” To which I respond, “That is a sin. And a shame.” If you are married, you should be having sex. A lot. With great regularity. All of the time. In I Corinthians 7:16 Paul tells married couples that they should be having sex. He recommends that they abstain for short periods of time only for the purpose of prayer and fasting, again only for short periods and only if both partners agree (I Corinthians 7:1-6). Sex shouldn’t just happen on birthdays, anniversaries, or vacations, it should happen all of the time. The problem is that when you have been told that you should be ashamed of your sexuality from the time you learn what sex is, then it is quite possible to arrive to the marriage bed and still hear the voices repeating in your head, “Sex is bad. Sex is bad. Sex is bad.” But friends here me clearly, sex is not bad. Sex is good! When you are married you have the privilege, you have the right, nay the responsibility

To slap skins and knock boots!

To get it on and have relations!

To run, shoot, and score!

Go and have sex that is creative and Productive.

Selective and particular.

Have sex that is bound up in covenant.

Have sex that is sweaty and nasty.

Sex that is explicit and provocative.

The kind of sex that makes you yell from the back of a limo, “Driver, Roll up the partition! Please!

Have Nasty

And X-rated

And Holy

And righteous

And good

And good

And good.

Have Good Sex!

Amen.

[1] For more information on this check out Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective by Kelly Brown Douglass.

[2] Davis, Ellen. Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2001.

[3] United Methodist Book of Worship

Good Sex Part 2: Bound to the Bedposts

Leviticus 18:1-30

Today we will continue our discussion on Christian sexuality and intimacy. The premise of this sermon series is that there is such a thing as good, healthy, and holy sex. Sex is not innately bad nor sinful. While sex is not innately sinful, sexual sin does exist and it is quite dangerous and destructive to the mind, body, and spirit. In order to identify what good sex is, we must first identify what good sex is not. In order to have good sex, we must have a deeply developed understanding and a commitment to refrain from the behaviors that get in the way of good sex, the sexual behaviors that destroy one’s body or the bodies of others, or the sexual behaviors that God has called sin. Leviticus is the common place to begin a conversation on sexual sin.

Our pericope, Leviticus 18, at first glance seems pretty straight forward, primarily emphasizing healthy non-sexual boundaries between family members. But there is more happening here. Let’s take a closer look:

Vs. 7- Don’t have sex with your parents.

7s. 8- Don’t have sex with your step-parents.

Vs. 9- Don’t have sex with your siblings, your full siblings or your half-siblings.

Vs. 10- Don’t have sex with your siblings’ children, nieces or nephews.

Vs. 11- Don’t have sex with your stepsiblings. Have you ever seen the 1995 movie Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone? In the end, the protagonist fell in love with her stepbrother… yea, don’t do that.

Vs. 12, 13, 14 – Don’t have sex with your aunts or uncles.

Vs. 15,16- Don’t have sex with your in-laws, sister-in-law, father-in-law… As if anyone gets along with their in-laws long enough to even conceive of the idea!

Vs. 17a- Don’t have sex with a person and the person’s child. (“I’m leaving you for your daughter!” Or “I’ve been sleeping with your father!” And all the other episodes on Jerry Springer, don’t do that).

Vs. 17b- Don’t have sex with your grandchildren.

Vs. 18- Don’t have sex with two sisters concurrently or two brothers concurrently.

Vs. 19- Don’t have sex while on your period or have sex with someone who is on her period.

Vs. 20- Don’t have sex with a neighbor’s spouse. Think of it like this: Don’t have sex with your neighbor’s partner, your friend’s partner, and your partner’s friends. I call this the “don’t smash the homies” rule.

Vs. 21- Don’t sacrifice children to Molech. This one is interesting. It may seem out of place but it isn’t. Molech was a pagan God. It was common at this time for people to sacrifice a first born child to Molech in hopes of greater fertility in the future, both fertility in the body (more children) and fertility in the land (plentiful harvest). We will come back to this.

Vs. 22- The infamous Leveticus 18.22 or don’t engage in sex with one of the same sex.

Vs. 23- Don’t have sex with an animal.

It is understandable to wonder about the utility of stating many, if not most, of these rules. It is understandable to think that this chapter is not particularly helpful in our quest to determine how to have good sex. You may be thinking, “Of course I know not to have sex with my mother, that’s gross!” But given our conversation on sexual abuse of children and the disturbing prevalence of incest and sexual violence that takes place within families, we realize that these non-sexual boundaries between family members really cannot be overstated. Moreover, when we understand what is happening in this chapter we will find that the sexual ethics presented here are quite relevant and practical tools to guide us in cultivating healthy sexual practices.

In this chapter, God is creating a culture of sexual and spiritual holiness that is different from the culture that the Israelites were heading to (Canaan culture) and different from the culture that the Israelites were leaving (Egyptian culture). The book of Leviticus is set in the wilderness. God has just freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and is now leading them to the land that God promised to give to their ancestors, Sarah and Abraham. In the midst of this journey from Egypt to Canaan, God establishes a Holy Covenant with the Israelites. He vows to overwhelm them with God’s power, provision, and steadfast love and in response to God’s commitment to them, they would become a peculiar people- different from the rest of the world in their living and different from the rest of the world in their worship. The rules listed above were sexual and worship practices that the world, especially Egypt and Canaan, considered absolutely normal but God considered sin.

In God’s covenant, God vowed to have a special relationship with the Israelites, the Israelites would be the children of God (Duet 14:1). But this special relationship to the Divine did not permit them to have sex with one another. In Egypt, the Pharaoh also believed that he had a special relationship to the divine, he was considered the son of Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun. The royal family were descendants of the Sun God, considered divine themselves, and therefore only primarily produced with one another to keep their divine lineage. The Israelites were leaving a place where it was considered completely normal, therefore, to have sex with a sister or close relative. But God is saying in this chapter that what the world considers normal, God considers sin.

God’s covenant also required a peculiarity in worship. Not only did God require the Israelites to worship only the God of Israel but God was greatly interested in how the Israelites worshiped the God of Israel. They were headed to Canaan where the Canaanites venerated various deities like Molech, Baal, Asherah, Ashtoreth, etc. The Canaanites worshiped these deities by engaging in child sacrifice (Lev 18:21) and in mass sexual orgies. The orgies included everyone and everything, it was a big sexual mess. Verses 21-23 is addressing this sort of worship practice. God is telling the Israelites not only to refrain from worshipping the Canaanite deities but also refrain from worshipping the God of Israel in the same manner that the Canaanites worship the Canaanite deities. They are going to a place where it was considered normal to have these sexual orgies as a part of worship and ritual but what the world considered normal, God considered sin.

They were coming from a place and they were going to a place where certain sexual practices were considered normal but what the world considered normal, God called it sin.

This refrain rings true in the ancient world of the Israelites and it still rings true for Christians today.

What the world considers normal, God calls it sin. Today

It’s totally normal to begin having sex at 13, 14, or 15.

It’s totally normal to meet someone at a club, bar, party. Sleep with them and not remember their name the next morning.

It’s totally normal to have had so many sexual partners that you have lost count. Can’t remember names or faces.

But what the world considers normal, God calls it sin.

It’s quite normal to have multiple partners at one time. In or out of marriage. Normal to sleep with your wife. And your girlfriend. And your side piece. And that girl you met at the mall yesterday. Oh, it’s normal to sleep with your hubby, your boo, that dude you met at a Casino on your girls weekend to Vegas, and the ex who texts you every 6 months with “hey stranger.”

It’s normal to have sex for money.

It’s normal to have sex for drugs.

It’s normal to have sex to get your rent or utilities paid.

But what the world considers normal, God calls it sin.

It’s totally normal to tell a woman that you really like her, even love her. To tell her you want to be with her. To tell her how beautiful she is. To sleep with her. And then never call her again.

It’s normal to watch porn all day. And all night.

It’s normal to be confused about the reverence owed to a female pastor in a pulpit because the only time you see a woman on an elevated platform is when she is on stage at a strip club.

But what the world considers normal. God considers it sin.

And this too, my friends, is about worship. Our sexuality is wrapped up with and through our spiritual selves. You tell me what is going on in your sex life and I can tell you what is going on with your soul. Your heart, you mind, and soul are inextricably bound to what you are doing sexually. And God really cares about it. Even if you don’t. God cares.

God cares about what you are doing with your body.

God cares about what you are doing to your body.

God cares about what you are doing with other people’s bodies.

God cares about what you are doing to other people’s bodies.

It is clear from Leviticus 18 that in order to have good sex one must refrain from sexual sin. Using Leviticus 18 as a point of reference and considering the vast conversation on sex in the Bible, we find that there are three fundamental sexual behaviors that we must refrain from in order to have good sex.

  1. Sex in violence is a sin. Sex that is wrapped around aggression, oppression, the desire to conquer or control another’s body is a sin. We find this clearly illustrated in the Book of Judges, chapter 19. In this text, we find a Levite who is seeking to reconcile with his concubine who has run away to her father’s house. He goes to her father’s house to try to encourage her to come home with him. A group of men from the neighborhood then come pounding at the door demanding that they father hand over the Levite so that the group can rape him. The Levite instead pushes his concubine outside and the text says that the group, “raped and abused her all night long” (Judges 19:25). This sounds unspeakable but the truth is that gang rape happens all the time. It happens in parties and night clubs. In college dorm rooms and frat houses. It happens in prisons and detention centers. It happens to women and children in war-torn countries who cannot get away from the soldiers fast enough. It happens all the time. And it’s a sin.

One-on-one coercive sexual violence is also a sin. I am talking to men and women here. Women, too, pressure and force men into sexual acts. Have a look at Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. There we find Joseph living with his slave master Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife takes a-liking to Joseph and tries to seduce, compel, and finally coerce him to have sex with her. Sex that wrapped around an attempt to control someone else’s body is violent and sexual violence is a sin.

Sexual behavior that violates your own body is a sin as well. Sometimes people rape themselves. Sometimes a person will consent to a sexual behavior that s/he really doesn’t want to perform. If s/he would just stop and listen s/he could hear the inner voice that is crying “please, I don’t want to do this.” Committing a sexual act against your own will is self-inflicted violence. And it is a sin.

2. Prostitution is a sin. It is sinful to trade sex for money. It is sinful to barter sex for goods and resources like clothes, shoes, a new cell phone, tickets to a Beyoncé concert, dinner and a rent-free place to stay at your baby’s momma’s house. Your sex should not be for sale. Your sex is not a Visa or a MasterCard.

Not only is it sinful to trade your sex for material gain, it is sinful to trade your sex for immaterial gain as well. To hand over sex in order to feel loved or desirable for a little while. To trade sex to feel powerful and in control for a while. To give sex in order to feel less lonely or isolated for an evening. Sex for the sole purpose of intangible goods – “I just don’t want to be alone tonight.” Or “I need to feel like The Man” is a sin.

It is sinful to use sex as a way to change situations and circumstances that you may find yourself in. This is illustrated in Genesis 38 with Tamar and Judah. This is a complicated story but suffice it to say that Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law. According to custom, Judah was supposed to give Tamar to his youngest son after the first two sons died. But Judah never did it. So she hid her identity, had sex with Judah, got pregnant, all as a response to the fact that Judah did not give her to his third son. She wielded her sexuality in an attempt to control her situation. When you use your sex as way to manipulate your circumstances, control your environment or control the actions of other people, it’s called prostitution. And it’s a sin.

3. Finally, lust is a sin. Constantly chasing after your many, and ever changing, sexual impulses is a sin. We see this exemplified in the life of David, in II Samuel 11. David sent his army out to war and in a very un-kingly fashion, he stayed back to hang out in the palace while his soldiers fought for his kingdom. One day he looked out and saw Bathsheba, the wife of one of his chief soldiers, bathing in the sun. David took one look at her and he just had to have her. It didn’t matter that he was married. It didn’t matter that she was married. It didn’t matter that she was married to one of his chief soldiers who was in real-time fighting for David’s life. None of that mattered. All that mattered was that he saw Bathsheba. And he had to have what he saw. So he took what he saw. The consequences of this act of lust were devastating to everyone involved, it led to the break-up of marriage and the ending of lives. And that is what lust does. It destroys relationships. It destroys lives. It’s a sin that keeps on sinning.

We are sexual beings and we have sexual desires but it’s exhausting and destructive to be constantly subject to all of your sexual impulses. If you don’t get in control of lust you will find yourself constantly chasing your tail, running nonstop after the things that you think that you want. But the reality is that you do not know what you want.

Listen closely, I said you don’t know what you want. I’m not saying that you don’t know how you like it. I’m sure you know how you like it. You like it stripped down. And beat up. You like it licked. Stroked. Flipped. And reversed. You know how you like it but you don’t know what you want.

Because if you knew what you wanted, you wouldn’t wake up next to a man one morning and next to a woman the next.

If you knew what you wanted, you wouldn’t change your sex partners like you change your underwear.

If you knew what you wanted, you would not be bound to the bedposts of your bedrooms by your impulses, desires, addictions, and angst.

That constant temptation to chase and chase and chase after our perceived wants is the result of the human condition. It is the incurvatus- it’s a brokenness in the spirit, a sickness in the soul.

But the good news is that there is a God who knows what we want. And more importantly, there is a God who knows what we need. What we need is freedom. What we need is liberation from the sins of violence, prostitution and lust that keep us bound up to our bedposts. What we need is healing for our tattered, bruised and bleeding souls.

The good news, brothers and sisters, is that there is a bandage for the tatters. There is an ointment for the bruises. There is a salve for our bleeding. There is a balm. There is a balm in Gilead to heal our sin-sick souls. There is a balm in Gilead and his name is Jesus.

Jesus who looked at the woman accused of adultery (John 8:4-11).

A woman whose name we do not know.

A woman whose story we do not know.

We don’t know if she was a prisoner to violence. We don’t know if she was just trying to feed her children. We don’t know if she was high on the opiate of lust. All we know is that she stood before her Lord and savior, caught in the act.

Like her, we stand today in the presence of our Lord, caught in the act. None of us free from the temptations of violence, prostitution, and lust.

Jesus looks at her in her eyes. And then he looks into the eyes of her accusers and said, “You who is without sin, you cast the first stone” (John 8:7). You who have never been tempted by the thrill of violence. You who have never been tugged by the promised reward of prostitution. You who have never been seduced by the tantalizing voice of lust. You cast the first stone.

And the Bible says that one by one,

From oldest to the youngest. They laid down their stones.

“Have none of your accusers condemned you?” Jesus asked.

“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11)

We stand today in the overflow of the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus the Christ.

Who has not condemned us but delivered us.

Who has not condemned us but liberated us.

Who has not condemned us but freed us.

Good sex occurs when we put down the sin of sexual violence, prostitution, and lust.

Brothers and sisters Go. And sin no more.

Good Sex Part 1: Let Him Lay His Hands on You

Text: Matthew 19:13 and 14

In order to talk about healthy sexuality we must first address the elephant in the room- the truth that we as a community have been keeping a secret for far too long- and that is for many in this sanctuary, your first sexual encounter was violent, was coerced, was before you were old enough to consent, was before you knew what was happening. Before we can talk about good sex, we must first talk about sexual abuse of children.

Sexual abuse is any sexual act between an adult and a minor (sometimes between a minor and a minor), forcing, coercing, or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act:

It could be touching, or fondling.

Forcing a child to strip.

or raping a child.

According to the national statistics on rape, 70% of all reported sexual assault occur to children under the age of 17 and in almost half of all reported rape cases, the victim was also a child under the age of 17.[1] These are only the cases that were reported. It is widely known that many instances of sexual abuse go unreported. It is widely known, although rarely discussed, that the incidence of sexual abuse is extraordinarily high particularly in the black community. And this form of sexual violence that people endure has lasting implications on one’s ability to cultivate healthy spiritual or healthy sexual practices. This is an issue in which we must bring to light and bring to Jesus, the light of the world.

In our text this morning, we find Jesus in the thick of his ministry, travelling around preaching and teaching throughout Judea. By now, he has developed a name for himself as a great preacher, miracle worker, and healer. People are coming from all over the place to receive healing from him. We find here in our short pericope that a group of parents or guardians have brought little children so that Jesus could lay his hands on them and pray for them.  We read that the disciples rebuke the parents and try to keep them from Jesus. Jesus responds by rebuking the disciples and stating, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mat. 19:14).

Let the children come to me. And do not hinder them.

Sexual abuse hinders the relationship between a child and Jesus. You will hear me say over and over again throughout the next several weeks this fundamental truth: our sexual selves are inextricably bound with our spiritual selves. Therefore, sexual violence is not only traumatic to the mind and the body, but also to the spirit. This sort of trauma can get in the way of truly knowing God. Of knowing God’s goodness. Of knowing God’s grace.  And most especially, of knowing God’s love. The people brought the children to Jesus so that Jesus could lay his hands on them- even the imagery of Jesus laying his hands on you can be a stumbling block, can be disturbing, or even violent imagery, if you have been touched inappropriately. Sexual abuse damages a child’s body which is a crime. Sexual abuse keeps a person from their Lord, which is a sin.

Let the Children come to me. And do not hinder them, Jesus said.

We, as a community, need to begin to face this as a reality in our community and address this sin. This is really happening in our families and in our neighborhoods and it needs to stop. We must take seriously the statistics and be vigilant about changing our community so that our children’s first sexual encounter is no longer one of violence, confusion, and deep pain.

The first thing we must do is protect them. Know the statistics and take them seriously. The statistics are that 90% of children who are molested, know their abuser.[2] While it is sometimes an unknown, scary, predator that lurks around the child’s school, it is more often the case that the abuser is a family member, a neighbor, or a close friend of the family. We have to take that seriously. That means that children need to be supervised and protected, even from family. That may mean that a child needs to be supervised by two adults at all times. That may mean that you can’t send your child to grandma’s house for the weekend or the summer if there are a lot of adults living in her house. We need to protect children from live-in predators as well. We have to take seriously that the reality of the situation is that single mothers with live-in partners have the highest risk of having a son or daughter sexually abused.[3]  We have to take this fact seriously. And putting aside for a moment the question of what are you doing shacking up in the first place?- just putting that aside, if you chose to do that, know that your child is at risk. Put some measures of safety between your lover and your child. Between your lover’s family and your child. Between your lover’s friends and your child.  Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them. In other words, protect them.

Second, we have to believe them. It is a tragic phenomenon that incidence of sexual abuse often goes unreported, not because the child did not inform an adult, but because the adult refused  to believe the child or refused to respond to the crisis. I have heard so many horror stories where the child came forward and the parent just would not believe. I know a woman who was molested by her grandmother and she told her mother but her mother simply would not believe her. Her mother continued to drop her off at her grandmother’s house for days and weeks at a time.  She would not believe. She would not respond. This had lasting implications on the woman’s mental psyche, her spirituality, and her sexuality.  I know another who was molested by her stepfather for many years.  When she tried to tell her mother, her mother would simply leave the room. Her mother still lives with her stepfather to this day. This had lasting implications on the woman’s mental psyche, her spirituality, and her sexuality. It is our responsibility to believe and to respond to our children. Respond by talking to children about sex regularly and early on. If the first time you are talking about sex is after a crisis has occurred, you have already responded way too late. It is incumbent upon us to create a culture in our homes and families where open and honest conversation is the norm, where children are not afraid to speak the truth for fear of discipline or rejection, where secrets are not encouraged. This sort of secret festers in communities, it festers in families, and it festers in the hearts and souls of the victims. It causes the collapse of self-esteem, a confusion about wanted and unwanted touch, destructive coping mechanisms like substance abuse, it causes depression, and even causes suicide. Let the children come to me. And do not hinder them. In other words, respond to and believe them.

We can spend all of our time discussing preventative measures to eliminate the presence of sexual abuse in our community but for many people here- men, women, and children- a conversation on prevention is too little and too late.

All of us have been impacted by sexual abuse.

Here, present with us now, are men and women who have been sexually violated as a child.

Here, present with us now, are men and women who have violated a child or minor sexually.

Here, present with us now, are children who have been inappropriately touched.

Here, present with us now, are family members and friends who have witnessed as sexual trauma has stripped our loved ones of their life and their light.

Brothers and sisters, in order to have good sex, healthy sex as God intended- you must first receive God’s healing for the ways in which your body has been violated, you must first receive healing for the way in which you have used your body to violate another’s body. We stand today as a community- of parents, victims, violators, and friends- we stand desperately needing Jesus to lay his hands on us. We stand desperately needing his healing. Therefore, I invite you to allow Jesus to put his hands on you today. I invite you to allow him to place his hands on this area of your life fore only he can fix your broken places and bring light to your dark spaces. Good sex can only arise when you allow Jesus to be the one to touch you. To heal you. To make you whole. Let him lay his hands on you.

So what we will do now is enter a time of healing. There are candles on the altar and I invite you, as you feel led, to light a candle to represent a child that you are bringing to Jesus.

Perhaps that candle represents you, when you were touched before you knew what sex was, before you knew what was happening.

Perhaps that candle represents a son or daughter, niece or nephew, brother or sister.

Perhaps that candle represents a friend who was violated as a child and you have watched as the trauma has taken root in the person’s life, you have watched as his or her life has gone spiraling out of control as a result.

Jesus said, let the children come to me. And do not hinder them. For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Please, bring the children to Jesus.

____________________________________________________________

There were nearly 50 candles on the altar, all were lit. The time of healing ended with a period of testimony. The following are a few testimonies that were rendered:

“Pastor, I thank you for being brave enough to discuss this topic. This is really happening in our communities. I had a brother who, when he was younger, he went to our neighbor’s house to play one day. And that day he changed. He became a different person. He began getting in trouble, going in and out of jail. He eventually committed suicide. My mother believes that something happened to him. She believes that someone touched him. But she didn’t know, we didn’t know how to talk about it. So I encourage everyone to be brave, to talk about this, to speak out. It just may save a life.”

“I have nephews and nieces that have been molested. There are so many that there are not enough candles to light one for each. I knew something was wrong, that something was happening but everything was kept a secret. I pray that God would heal them and heal my family.”

“When I was a little girl, I was molested by a friend of the family. He would touch me and I didn’t know what was going on but I knew it was wrong. I became sexually active at a young age, I think because of that. I was a very young mother. I have never told anyone before today that this happened to me as a child. It was 50 years ago and I didn’t realize until today how much it still impacts my life. But I believe that I have been healed today.”

Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Amen.

[1] RAINN Rape Abuse Incest National Network. https://www.rainn.org/statistics

[2] RAINN Rape Abuse Incest National Network. https://www.rainn.org/statistics

Good Sex: Taking the Sin out of Sex. Introduction

Everyone is talking about sex. Sex seems to be the favored subject of the human experience, at least the American experience. Sex is constantly on the television, the radio, the movie screens, computer screens, billboards, newspapers, it’s everywhere. And everyone is talking about it. Except in the church. Well, that is not entirely true nor fair. The church is talking about sex, especially lately. There is currently a great debate going on about homosexuality and sermons decrying homosexuality or sermons supporting the homosexual community (although less frequently) can be heard on Sundays throughout the Bible Belt, and throughout the nation.

But limiting the subject to homosexuality is a really problematic approach to discussing Christian sexuality for two reasons. First, the debate around homosexuality- is it a sin, is it not a sin?- reflects a very simplistic and underdeveloped understanding of human sexuality. Sex and sexuality are complex subjects. Homosexuality verses heterosexuality is, more often than not, a false dichotomy.  Furthermore, most people trying to align their deeply intricate sexual desires  with their religious beliefs have so many questions and the response, “just don’t be gay,” is not the answer to any of them, I would argue.

Second, limiting the conversation to homosexuality continues a long standing error in the Christian Church and that is that we only talk about how not to behave sexually. As a community of faith, we only discuss what is considered “bad sex.” We are told what not to do, “Don’t have homosexual sex. Don’t engage in fornication. Don’t commit adultery.” And then the subject abruptly stops after that. This leaves most Christians with the ominous questions, “What should we do? What do we do?”

So for the next three Sundays we are going to talk about the characteristics of “good sex” or sex that is holy, sex that is as God intended. We will articulate practical sexual ethics- inviting God into our bedrooms so that we can cultivate healthy sexual practices that take seriously our Holy Writ, our faith, and our tradition. We will take an expansive look at the many and varied conversations on sex in the Bible and allow our holy text to meet us at the point of our need… both literally and figuratively. We will let God teach us how to take the sin out of sex.  So let’s begin: